‘Mindhunter’ DP Erik Messerschmidt shot the darkly intimate show with custom-made RED Xenomorphs.
When it comes to cinematography, every filmmaker, every movie or show, and every shot is different. While there may be a “textbook” way to approach a scene, there is no “correct” way. Even so, patterns and styles always emerge, and few filmmakers have developed a look as distinctive as David Fincher’s. While Fincher is best known for his mysterious and gritty films, ranging from Fight Club to The Social Network, he’s recently ventured into the realm of streaming television, where he has produced and directed the critically-acclaimed House of Cards, and now seeks to expand on that success with the recently-released Mindhunter for Netflix.
The color palettes David Fincher uses in his films are just as powerful as his dark, unstable characters.
There are a lot of words to describe David Fincher’s films but “subtle” isn’t really one of them. The worlds he creates have a characteristic normalcy, albeit dark and slightly off, but as their stories progress we’re always brought to the nightmarish carnival that is Fincher’s creativity—peeking past the curtain to see a fight club, a missing woman stabbing a man to death mid-coitus, and a mummified man barely alive laying in a room full of pine tree air fresheners.
However, there are areas in which Fincher uses some restraint and finesse in order to carefully lay the groundwork for his more over-the-top sequences, one of which is color. In this video essay by StudioBinder, we get to see how the director employs different color palettes to communicate important themes and character traits to his audience, as well as to ramp up the anticipation in suspenseful scenes.
Some inspiring and thought provoking quotes from Morgan Freeman, Anna Kendrick, Quentin Tarantino, Audrey Hepburn, David Cronenberg and Lauren Bacall. You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you. Morgan Freeman Being well adjusted is probably fucking overrated. Anna Kendrick When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, […]
Some inspiring and thought provoking quotes from Alfred Hitchcock, Harrison Ford, David Lynch, Ava Gardner, Robert Downey Jr. and Emma Watson. Film your murders like love scenes, and film your love scenes like murders. Alfred Hitchcock ‘May the Force be with you’ is charming but it’s not important. What’s important is that you become the […]
“Sometime we have to go through something to get through something.” Gravitas Ventures has debuted the official US trailer for an indie drama titled Free In Deed, which first premiered at the Venice Film Festival back in 2015. It also played at numerous film festivals in 2016, and is just now getting a very small release starting September this year. Free In Deed takes place in the world of converted storefront churches, following one man’s attempt to perform a miracle. English actor David Harewood (from “Supergirl”, “The Night Manager”, “Homeland”, The Brothers Grimsby) stars as a Pentecostal minister whose dedication to God is tested when approached by a desperate mother and her troubled son. The full cast includes Edwina Findley, Kathy Smith, and RaJay Chandler. This looks very powerful and entirely unique, worth a look. ›››
David Letterman stepped down from his longtime post as the host of The Late Show on CBS in 2015, replaced by comedian Stephen Colbert. But as any good comedian will tell you, it’s hard to stay away from the spotlight, and David Letterman is a great comedian, so it should come as no surprise that he’s coming out of retirement with a new show. But it won’t be on any of the big networks.
Netflix is bringing David Letterman into their ever-expanding roster of comedy talent for a new series on the streaming service with six episodes in 2018. But exactly what kind of show can we expect from the legendary, respected comedian and television host?
The New York Times reports news of Netflix rounding up David Letterman for a series that doesn’t have a title yet, but the streaming service said it will be an hour-long program that will have Letterman doing two of the things he does best “in-depth conversations with extraordinary people, and in-the-field segments expressing his curiosity and humor.”
With 33 years of late night hosting experience under his belt, not to mention all the time he spent honing his skills as a stand-up comedian, Letterman is one of the best in the business, and the fact that Netflix was able to coax him out of retirement is a big deal. Actually, the comedian was the one who was getting antsy about doing a new project, telling NYT, “I keep saying, jeez, I still think I can do something. I want that epiphany that others have had. It’s the same epiphany that I had about wanting to do a TV show when I was, like, 17.”
Letterman has kept a low profile since leaving television in 2015, though he has made a few appearances here and there on the National Geographic Channel and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. In the press release from Netflix, Letterman himself said, “I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix. Here’s what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely.”
Now the comedian is another huge name added to the comedy mix on the streaming service, which will soon have new specials from Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock on the way. It remains to be seen if this is just the beginning of a larger relationship that Letterman will have with Netflix, but for now, this is a good start. Whether or not his Santa Claus style beard will stick around when he returns to TV hosting, we’ll have to wait and see.
Are you looking forward to the David Letterman Netflix show?
“All of the races are different. Just because they’re different doesn’t mean anybody’s better or worse than anybody.” Netflix has launched the full-length trailer for David Ayer’s fascinating new film Bright – which is a Netflix Original production, starring Will Smith, set in a different world where other creatures like orcs and elves co-exist with humans. It’s also a bit like Training Day, it seems, because Smith plays a cop assigned a partner who’s an orc and he just doesn’t like him. Joel Edgerton co-stars under the make-up as “Nick Jakoby”, and the full cast includes Noomi Rapace, Kenneth Choi, Brad William Henke, Lucy Fry, Edgar Ramírez, Ike Barinholtz, Brandon Larracuente, and Dawn Olivieri. So this actually looks surprisingly damn good, I’m serious. The first half of this trailer starts a bit slow, but when everything kicks in mid-way through – wow. I’m seriously impressed. I really want to see this movie. What about you? ›››
Watch David Lynch in his element as he discusses his process and directing his 2006 film Inland Empire.
There’s precious little footage of David Lynch directing, though there have been articles—like this one, by David Foster Wallace, that followed the director on the set of Lost Highway.
But a recently surfaced clip from the documentary Lynch: One sees the director discussing his craft and facing depression, and depicts Lynch as he directs what would become one of his most controversial and experimental films of all time: Inland Empire.
Of his usual process, Lynch says, “Before you start shooting, you have done all that not-knowing, and catching ideas and hooking them together—and going this way and getting that idea and hooking them together, throwing that out and getting new ideas. Then, you have a script and you know what you’re going to do.”
Not so here, with Inland Empire, where the director says the process is different. “It’s scene by scene. Not knowing, but shooting [anyway].”
The Straight Story: David Lynch’s sweetest movie is also one of his most challenging
David Lynch‘s The Straight Story opens with a view of a starry night sky. As we gaze at (into? through? beyond?) these stars we become aware of quiet, ethereal music, floating in our subconscious like something recalled rather than heard. There’s a faint echo of Laura Palmer‘s theme. Of course there is. Laura’s out there somewhere, a little light from a distant dimension burning in our present. She belongs in this particular patch of sky, shining over Laurens, Iowa, a small town not unlike Twin Peaks, with a similar community of faintly absurd, lost souls…and its fair share of ghosts. We’ll see all that clearly soon enough but for now we’re looking at stars, reflecting on the fact that we’re looking at the past, that each star is a pinprick of bright, dead light, haunting the darkness of our present.
Suddenly we are hovering over a front lawn in hot afternoon light. The grass is almost oppressively bright. An obese woman fries herself on a recliner under the glare of the sun. Nothing about this scene is comfortable. Colors are shouting at us but it’s oh so quiet. So quiet. We begin to descend, at a slow, slow, creeping pace, very gradually advancing over the lawn and up to a darkened side window. Whose eyes are we looking through? Some sort of spirit? Death? That’s the natural assumption. We’re re-visiting the opening of ‘Blue Velvet’, surely, this time with a dash of Halloween. This stealthy creep around the outside of the house almost exactly retraces the steps of the young Michael Myers as he spies on his sister…his prey. Are we here to spy on prey? Are we here to kill? Just as we ask ourselves this question we find ourselves staring intently at the deep shadows behind the kitchen window. We hear something drop to the floor, followed by a heavy thud. Someone has fallen. Our presence has been felt.
We expect to be disorientated this early in a David Lynch film but we don’t necessarily expect to feel this strong sense of intimately inhabiting the insidious spirit of mortality. We soon realize that in doing this we are in fact inhabiting the spirit of the protagonist.
When we finally see Alvin Straight lying on his floor, resisting the help of neighbors, we are struck by the mix of self-awareness and defiance in his face. He knows exactly what is wrong with his ailing body – he can sense it. But he does not want anyone else to make a fuss about it. He feels that as long as he can maintain it as his own silent certainty he can control it. The moment he accepts help, practical, medical or otherwise, it will become something bigger than him. His world needs to remain small, secretive. We will see several heartbreaking glimpses of this secret world as we get closer to him.
When Alvin’s daughter, Rose, returns home to find him still lying on the floor, with two neighbors looking increasingly pathetic and defeated, she naturally panics. Now, this is Sissy Spacek playing a woman who has remained essentially child-like. Her look of confusion and raw desperation as she brings her hands to her face belong to the world of horror, the world of Carrie. Thus a moment of great truth also becomes a moment of modern Gothic.
This scene epitomizes the way in which The Straight Story works. The story itself is remarkably true and the characters wonderfully real and while reflecting all this truth the film manages also to appear full of illusion and allusion. We see this at the key moment in which the plot, such as it is, is kicked into action. Alvin and Rose are sitting together in their front room as a dramatic storm flashes outside. In the expert hands of cinematographer Freddie Francis this is a Hammer movie storm, melodramatically enhancing an atmosphere of dread and assaulting the unquiet soul of this little house with restless spirits. The phone rings. We sense it is something ominous. So does Alvin. As Rose takes the call we watch Alvin’s intense features, a granite mask of certainty. He knows it is worrying news. He knows it concerns his brother. He knows this even though there has been no communication between them for the past ten years. He knows this because he is the insidious spirit of mortality. The spirit whose eyes we were looking through in the garden as he crept stealthily up on himself. The spirit who understands the precise nature of the relationship all those in his consciousness have with death and loss. Thus when Rose tells him his brother Lyle has had a stroke there is no flicker of surprise. Instead there is the vivid lightning flash of certainty and resolution (is this storm really taking place or is it a Lynchian illusion, an apt expressionistic psychological projection?). He knows simply that he and his brother must be reunited. The time has come to make a journey.
Now anyone who knows anything about this film knows that this journey is the stuff of legend. The real Alvin Straight traveled hundreds of miles from Iowa to Wisconsin on a tractor lawn mower. In Lynch’s symbolic hands this becomes a mythical odyssey through a haunted autumnal world. The vehicle in the film is a 1966 John Deere model. It has history. It has aches and pains. It is a shadow of its former self. It literally has great hills to climb. Man and machine are one. The insidious spirit of mortality will creep along The Great Open Road and everyone who encounters it will feel both a tug of compassion and a chill of recognition. Isn’t that just like life? This is the wonderful metaphor Lynch offers us. Riding his mechanical steed of gritty determination and gradual triumph, Alvin is both a questing medieval knight and a manifestation of the Reaper. It is no accident that his journey is punctuated by images of harvest. He gathers the souls of everyone he meets, not to claim them but to consider them for a while with the penetrating eye of his spirit, to draw from them their darkest truths. He leaves them slightly shaken but also emboldened, their sense of life and purpose re-affirmed.
You really need to watch or re-watch these encounters for yourself to get their full emotional weight. I want to focus just on one moment of Alvin’s journey to highlight the lightness of Lynch’s quintessential touch in this film. This is the moment when Alvin begins to notice cyclists flitting past him. At first it is the odd little streak of movement. Then Alvin gets off his mower, turns to get a full view of the long road and watches as a great stream of them rushes past him, each one with the almost intangible appearance of a wisp. They seem to have organically materialized out of the landscape, carried on the wind. There is a suggestion of the miraculous about them. There is certainly a sense of life, of energy, of youth. Alvin regards them with a wistful mix of admiration and yearning. He watches them all go by. And then he climbs back on his steed and sets about slowly catching up with them. Much later in the day, as he pulls in to the field where they are setting up camp, we see them gathering round him, applauding. Now it is their turn to be full of admiration. But, we reflect, is there not also perhaps a slight sense of fear? Here, after all, is the steel-willed spirit of time and age, triumphantly trumpeting the inevitability that he will catch up with all of us in due course.
That is of course the point. But it is also the point that this moment is seen as a celebration. Ultimately it is the life that remains in Alvin that matters. It is that life that is being recognized, however compromised, however frail, however wrapped in darkness. The fire in Alvin’s soul blazes out of his beautiful eyes and lights everything around him. What still remains of the life in the leaves on the autumn trees burns with a rich, deep, strong flame. This is a film that slows us down until it aches to move. It forces us to be still while we think thoughts we don’t want to think, about grief, about time, about age, about weakness, about death. It forces us to creep up to our own side window and stare into the darkness at ourselves. But then as we look it assaults our eyes with simple, elemental images of such beauty that we feel our appreciation of life being refreshed, enriched by our brush with the spirit of mortality. This is a parable about the harvest which teaches us that walking in step with the reaper is the way to move through life. In short Lynch achieves the kind of spiritual transcendence in this film that Terrence Malick was reaching and straining to achieve with The Tree of Life.
Nowhere is that sense of transcendence more powerful than in the overwhelming final scene. If you have not seen the film I will not ruin it by giving anything away. What I must say is that in an ideal world people would watch The Straight Story as the second part of a double bill with my favorite film of all time, Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas. The connections would unfold slowly, beautifully, at a rich and very gradual pace, until finally this last scene would hit us as the near miraculous, revelatory epiphany at the end of a remarkable journey.
One could write separate essays on Richard Farnsworth’s extraordinary performance and Angelo Badalamenti‘s vital score, which, perhaps more than with any of the composer’s other organic collaborations with Lynch, is the heart and soul of the film. Let that provoke discussion! For now I have said enough. If you have not already experienced this film then rest assured it will catch up with you. That time will come. And you will feel your heart lifted when it does. Lifted by what is probably the most gentle, beautiful, truthful, compassionate horror film in history.
Videos and transcripts from Milch’s legendary 2001 and 2007 WGA series.
In September 2010, I ran a week-long series featuring key excerpts from a memorable series of presentations in December 2001 by David Milch at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills. Then I stumbled upon this: An entire series available on YouTube called The Idea of the Writer by Milch from a second WGA presentation, this one from December 2007. Since Milch is both an amazing writer and thinker about writing, each day this week I will reprise my posts featuring transcript excerpts from Milch’s 2001 presentation and embed videos from his 2007 series.
Not to mention the 259 episodes of “N.Y.P.D. Blue” he’s credited with writing.
I did this post back in July that featured some great video of Milch sharing his thoughts about writing. At the time, I noted this:
What leaped to mind when I read the news about the new HBO series was a series of presentations Milch gave at the WGA Theater several years ago. They were covered and excerpted in the fine WGA journal “Written By” over the course of several months. I remember reading them, both fascinated and inspired by Milch’s ideas.
I contacted “Written By” and they have kindly offered to create electronic versions of the original hard copies, so I can excerpt them on GITS. Look forward to that sometime soon.
Here are some of Milch’s comments from those presentations at the WGA Theater from back in 2001, excerpted from the “Written By” journal. Part 2:
A psychiatrist will tell you — well, a psychiatrist won’t tell you shit. But in psychiatric terms, the psyche is differentiated into the ego sense of self, the id — which is everything that gets us jammed up — and the super ego, which is the idea of form, or structure, or the accommodation in the world for our behavior. And the super ego is the internalization of the parental voice. Now, it’s obviously an oversimplification. But in particular, a writer — for reasons we will get to in another part of this discussion — stands in a particular kind of doubleness, typically, in his or her emotional makeup, toward experience. Stands both within it comfortably, and, for whatever combination of reasons, stands outside it. That’s the cards you’re dealt. That’s what predisposes you to be a writer as well as predisposes you to be a few other things.
Often, that doubleness is caused by a traumatic association with the idea of form. Here’s a for-instance. The Irish are regarded as a great storytelling people and also as a country full of drunks. There’s a reason for both reputations. It’s a tough country — weather’s tough, they had a lot of problems. One way you learn the doubleness that is typical of the writer is that you are both within the [tavern] and you’re standing outside wondering where the next punch is coming from.
The second maxim that I can give you, the thing that I always try to communicate to an aspiring writer, is that no one can teach you anything that you don’t already know, and each of you has, in your heart, the capacity, when encouraged by a benign organizing presence, to identify the deepest truths of the human story.
That last line is great takeaway:
…no one can teach you anything that you don’t already know, and each of you has, in your heart, the capacity, when encouraged by a benign organizing presence, to identify the deepest truths of the human story.